News Brief

Thomas and Perez Secure Summary Judgment on Cross-Motion For Boat Owner

February 27, 2023

Suma Thomas (Of Counsel-White Plains, NY) and Raymond Perez (Partner-White Plains, NY) obtained summary judgment on a cross-motion in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Richmond, for Wilson Elser’s client, a boat owner. The plaintiff is an electrician alleging he sustained personal injuries when he stepped into a hole in the cabin of the yacht owned by our client and fell into the engine room below. He was hired to install specific electronic equipment in the boat, and months after completing the job, he was informed that the systems were not performing as expected. The plaintiff agreed to inspect the equipment to assess the malfunction when the vessel was returned to the boatyard for other commissioned work. At the time of the accident, the ship was dry docked for renovations, including being equipped with a sea keeper stabilizer by the co-defendant yacht seller. The installation required the yacht seller to create an opening in the cabin floor, which he covered with plastic and secured to the floor with blue tape. The plaintiff testified that on the day of the accident, he worked on another vessel at the shipyard and later boarded the client’s yacht to “take a look” at the hailer and navigation system. When entering the cabin through a sliding door, he stepped onto the transparent plastic sheet and fell through it, landing in the engine room below. The plaintiff alleged rib fractures, lumbar disc herniation and other significant injuries.

The plaintiff asserts causes of action under Labor Law 240(1), 241(6), 200, Rule 23 of the Industrial Code and common law negligence. After depositions, the plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the labor law claims, seeking strict liability against our client. Suma and Raymond cross-moved, arguing that the labor law causes of action were inapplicable to the facts of this case. In granting Wilson Elser’s cross-motion for summary judgment on the labor law claims, the Court agreed that the plaintiff was not among the class of persons intended to be protected. He was not “hired by someone…be it owner, contractor or agent” to perform any renovation work that was in progress at the time of injury, nor was he “a person “employed” to carry out…repairs pursuant to Labor Laws 200(1), 240(1) and 241(6). While the plaintiff argued that he was performing “ancillary acts” to “repairing” within the meaning of Labor Law 2401(1), with his inspection a part of the ongoing work integral and necessary to the renovation work, the Court disagreed. The Court noted that the plaintiff completed the job before the accident date and that the inspection was not part of ongoing work but solely investigatory. 

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